Status of animal rights in United Kingdom

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Animal’s rights can be seen in two perspectives namely, moral and legal rights. Moral rights are rights which are no longer created by law, but are rather created thru a moral rights-based perspective. On the other hand, legal rights of animals are these rights which are created through legal systems for the betterment of the welfare of animals. According to Ritter, each being possess moral rights which should be promoted or protected. Philosophers have extended the ethical rights to animals by arguing that some of these animals belong to the category of Homo-Sapiens species which gives human beings ethical rights. Regan also asserts that all living creatures should possess ethical rights. He argues animals can undergo pain, frustration, frustration and pleasure just as human being. Therefore, these animals should not be just used sloppily for an individual’s gain since they not just a mere instrument. Regan adds that all mentally right adult mammals also possess basic moral rights since they belong to the category of species which enjoys moral rights. For instance, mammals have the right to liberty and to life. Therefore, this paper discusses the status of animal’s rights in United Kingdom (UK).

The United Kingdom is one of the regions which are recognized as an animal-friendly area. For instance, United Kingdom established Strong Central Directives to promote animal welfare among several states in the European Union through introduction of farming practices. There are two categories of laws which are employed to protect animal welfare in the United Kingdom. The first category of these laws is created at the national level by the parliament and the government of United Kingdom (Kean 998, p32). These laws include the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act, the Animal Welfare Act in England and Wales, and Welfare of Animals Acts (NI) 2011 are some of the laws which were established to discourage animal cruelty. However, these laws have several life impacts which can invoke some pet owners to protests. For instance, working dog owners protested outside parliament against proposed amendment which was meant to ban tail docking of dogs. The other impact of these laws includes banning the use of shock collars in Whales. These laws also regulated the boarding, breeding and selling of animals in England. Hunting of animals is another area which is control by the national laws through the hunting Act 2004 in Wales and England. These national laws also advocate for the banning of the fur farming. Finally, the national animal laws also control the welfare of wild animal in the travelling circuses.

The other category of laws which governs animal welfare in the United Kingdom originated from Europe. This second category of European laws protects farm animals. These laws are seventeen in number and they regulate production, transportation and slaughtering of farm animals. Eleven laws out of these seventeen protect wild animals which are falling in the regions which are part of international treaties and those that are in the areas which not part of international treaties. Nine of these laws regulate the care, breeding and the use of animals in research for scientific purposes. These laws regulate the use of animals in testing chemicals. These rules of covers import and marketing of cosmetics products used in animal testing. European Union also regulates the movement of pets such as dogs and cats. For instance, there are four laws of European Union which freely allow movement of cats and dogs that have been vaccine and micro chipped.

The United Kingdom has had a long publicly documenting history of animal rights activism. Animal right activism began in 1970s in the United Kingdom time Richard Ryder, British Animal rights activists.  This animal activism was later on propagated by the intellectuals who joined this movement to brainstorm the new concepts of animal rights. Animal activism movement began to take shape in 1970s to advocate for animal liberation. Ronnie Lee, later on formed a small group of activists called Hunt Saboteurs Association who dedicated themselves to advocate for the animal liberation. The name of Hunt Saboteur Association was later changed to Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Between 1970s and 1980s, more than 500 animal’s rights groups were formed; however, the real animal liberation action began in 1973 in United Kingdom (Regan 200, p28). British animal research center and animal research laboratory are some of the institutions which were publicly attacked so as to liberate large number of animals which were imprisoned in research labs, breeding centers and farms.

There are also several human activities which have tended to enslaved animals to worsening degrees. The first human activity which has greatly enslaved animals is animal testing. As a result of dangers pose to animal due to animal testing, UK legislated the Animal Scientific Procedures Act of 1986 (ASPA) which was meant to outlines circumstances under which animal testing is allowed. Therefore, detailed explanation is required so as to convince an ethical review panel why such research cannot be done through non-animal methods (Monamy 2017, p101). The review panel will then issue a license where the potential benefits outweigh any suffering which these animals may be subjected to. Dogs, cats, horses and primates are some of the animals which have additional protection than other vertebrates. The revised legislation of 2013 provides protection of various vertebrates under certain conditions. For instance, cephalopods are protected at the moment they are hatched. Reptiles and birds are also protected when they are in their last month of incubation or gestation period. Dog fighting is another human activity which endangers animal welfare. Dog fighting is one of the activities which occur nearly every day in the United Kingdom. Profit making and reputational gain are some of the driving factors for dog fighting. However, dog fighting usually expose fighting dogs to several dangers such as blood loss, torn flesh and death of animals involved. Another human being activity which has endangered these is animal cruelty and neglect, according to Kean (1998, p35). As a result, to danger of animal cruelty, a regulation has passed to jail the victims of act for 51 weeks.

Consequently, several legislations and animal welfare proposals were made to protect the right of animals. For instance, Ulster Unionist Party which is policy paper of 2016 made several proposals to protect the rights and welfare of animals (Aaltola, 2012). Ulster Unionist Party proposed that any attack of assistance dog or a guide dog should be treated as an aggravated offence. Ulster Unionist Party also proposed installation of CCTV in the slaughterhouses as a way of improving the animal welfare standards. Some of these legislations include, Animal Welfare Act of 2006 which is the latest animal welfare legislation both in Wales and England. The Animal Welfare Act of 2006, introduced several tougher penalties for animal cruelty and neglect. These penalties include jail term of 51 weeks, a lifetime ban of pets keeping for some individuals and fines of about 20,000 pounds. The enforcement team of this act comprises of local authorities’ inspectors and the police who are empowered to intervene in any situation where they suspect animals are being exposed to cruelty or neglect. The welfare offence is one of offences which was introduced by the Animal Welfare Act of 2006(Ferdowsian and Beck, 2017). This act also tasks pet owners which full responsibilities of meeting the basic needs of these animals through availing adequate water and food to these pets. Pet owners were also task with the responsibility of providing a conducive living environment and veterinary treatment to these animals.

In conclusion, animal rights can be viewed in two perspectives that are legal and moral rights. Legal rights are rights which are laws through legislation by the legal institution such as Parliament. On the other hand, moral rights are created through moral rights-based perspectives. Example of the rights which animals possess includes right to liberty, and right to move. Pets such as dog and cats also have right for food, water and contusive living environment. Most animals are also protected against docking. There are a number of laws which have been enacted to advocate for enhancement of animal welfare. Some of these laws include the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 and Animal Scientific Procedures Act of 1986 (ASPA). Therefore, infringement of these animal’s rights will cause one to face a number of penalties such as fine of 20, 000 pounds, jail of about 51 weeks and lifetime ban of pet keeping.


Ferdowsian, H. and Beck, N. (2017). Ethical and Scientific Considerations Regarding Animal Testing and Research.

Kean, Hilda. Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain Since 1800. Reaktion Books, 1998.

Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights. University of California, 2004.

Ritter, Christie. Animal Rights. ABCO, 2008.

Monamy, Vaughan. Animal Experimentation: A Guide to the Issues. Cambridge University, 2017.

Regan, Tom. Defending Animal Rights. University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Sunstein, R., Nussbaum, C. Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions. Oxford University Press, USA, 2004.

Kemmerer, Lisa. Animals and Word Religions. Oxford University, 2012.

Aaltola, E. Animal Suffering: Philosophy and Culture. Springer, 2012.

Mackenzie, L., Posthumus, S. French Thinking about Animals. MSU Press, 2015.

September 11, 2021

World Science


Europe Zoology

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United Kingdom Animals

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